Myrt and Marge (radio)
Donna Damerel (Marge Minter) and Vinton Hayworth (Jack Arnold), 1935.
|Running time||15 Minutes|
Donna Damerel 1932-1941,
Helen Mack 1941-1946
|Air dates||November 02, 1931 (night), January 04, 1937 (daytime) to 1946|
|Podcast||stream from Archive.org|
Characters and story
Vail thought of the idea while living in the Chicago area, after having spent several years as a vaudeville performer (often with her husband, George Damerel), basing it almost entirely on her own vaudeville experiences. She took the idea to the Wrigley chewing gum makers, who had yet to sponsor a radio show, naming her lead characters Myrtle Spear and Marge Minter (playing on the company's best-known gum), while casting herself as Myrtle and her real-life daughter Donna Damerel as Marge, with Myrt the elder, experienced chorus girl taking young, inexperienced, and innocent Marge under her wing. (In the pilot, Marge was said to be Myrt's daughter.) Wrigley liked the idea and Myrt & Marge debuted in late 1931. Originally a prime-time entry, the show proved so popular with women that it was moved to daytime programming.
The soap tracked the doings and undoings of the two close friends with some of the usual soap opera twists (kidnappings, organized crime, murder) and injected a degree of comedy into a genre not usually known at the time for wit. In later years the show was sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, who promoted its Super Suds laundry detergent among other products on the show.
Damerel died, in 1941, while giving birth to her third son. Damerel had done a Myrt & Marge performance hours before going into labor. Vail was quoted (by Movie-Radio Guide) as saying she believed her daughter had wanted it that way and that the show should not die, she wrote Marge out of the script for the time being, depicting her as hiding in the hills until a murder could be resolved, and set about casting a new Marge. The role finally went to Helen Mack, who had been seen as a streetwalker in His Girl Friday, but after just a few months with Mack playing the role, Myrt & Marge ended in 1942.
Myrtle Vail attempted to revive the show in 1946, in a syndicated version that sometimes included updated re-writes of the original scripts, according to radio historian John Dunning. But the new Myrt & Marge was a short-lived rating failure, however, and the one-time favourite disappeared quietly in 1947.
Approximately 110 episodes of Myrt & Marge survive, most from the 1946-47 syndication revival but three—including, somehow, the show's pilot episode—from its 1930s heyday are known to survive as well.
Myrtle Vail (January 7, 1888—September 18, 1978), sometimes credited as Myrtle Damerel, was an American actress and writer who was a radio fixture with the show.
Tragedy had earlier struck Myrt & Marge directly. In 1933, Vail was injured seriously in an automobile accident, forcing her to turn the show's writing over to a colleague named Charles Thomas, who wrote a storyline having Myrt kidnapped by gangsters, allowing Vail to recuperate completely.
In the film, Myrt Spear's touring vaudeville revue is full of talent and bound for Broadway, but low on funds. Conniving and lecherous producer Mr. Jackson (Thomas Jackson) helps the show so he can romance the young star, Marge Minter. Myrt, and Marge's boyfriend Eddie Hanley (Eddie Foy Jr.), step in to save the revue and Marge. Ted Healy, Moe, Larry and Curly are stagehands with hopes to join the show, and deal with the antics of backstage crasher Bonnie Bonnell.